Explosion Aboard the Iowa

Explosion Aboard the Iowa

  • ISBN-13: 9781557508102
  • $21.76

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The explosion aboard the battleship Iowa in 1989 that killed forty-seven crewmen during a routine gunnery exercise was a tragedy not only for the family and friends of those who died but for the U.S. Navy, whose awkward attempts to determine a cause failed miserably. When navy investigators concluded that the explosion (in one of the warship's huge 16-inch guns) was not an accident but a deliberate act by a member of the crew who died in the blast, there was a public outcry. Congressional committees held hearings on the navy's findings and called for further investigation after serious flaws in the report were uncovered. Head of a technical team of independent investigators hired by the Senate Armed Services Committee, the author writes with an insider's perspective. Richard Schwoebel tells how investigators could find no conclusive evidence to support the navy's claim that a chemical ignition device improvised by a crewman had set off the explosion. But what his team did find were critical safety deficiencies in the Iowa's gun systems, and he clearly defines them in layman's terms. As only a participant could, he fully describes the investigation his organization conducted, and how that investigation demonstrated that the explosion was in all probability an accident. He also is quick to credit the heroism of the crew for saving the ship from further devastation following the explosion. The book's close examination of the key factors related to the explosion will fascinate even those readers not familiar with the controversy and provides a case against self-assessments in any branch of the military. Schwoebel's concerns about the indiscriminate release of unsubstantiated information from unidentified sources and about the need for changes in military law that relate to due process for deceased service personnel accused of serious crimes are useful words of warning for the future.

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